At the next planet, turn left: NASA and Digital Transformation.

Space as the next frontier is happening. I am pretty sure that my kids will travel in space, but, likely, I won’t. Unless some biological hack is available before the time my body gives up and/or my mind has turned into a babbling substance. NASA always comes with interesting insights and solutions in its space exploration preparation. NASA deals with stuff you won’t even think of remotely in day to day life. For instance, swarm robots keep the ability to broadcast when exploring a deep cave, transforming meteors into gas stations by turning its ice into rocket propellant, and making rockets free of bacteria to prevent space from being contaminated. But what about being in space and finding your way back home to earth?

Today, we have all kinds of products and services that take care that we don’t get lost. How different was it in the past? Older readers will remember the fights about which directions to go on holidays when only paper maps were available. Or even earlier when you set sail to sea hoping to reach the other shore. Lighthouses were the only guide to enter the harbour and not getting shipwrecked on a foreign unknown coast. Replace coast for the planet, and you have the solution NASA come up with.

“NASA engineers have developed a somewhat similar approach — recently demonstrated in an X-ray navigation experiment called Station Explorer for X-ray Timing and Navigation Technology (SEXTANT). But it’s not for guiding ships through the night; it’s for guiding unmanned robotic spacecraft through space”

So you don’t have to worry that you cannot find your way home once you are up there. Just wondering whether the Tesla that swerves through space has a system onboard to find its way.

But NASA is not inventing for space travelling only. They also have to reinvent themselves over and over again. These days it is called Digital Transformation. And because it seems to be immensely hip to talk about Digital Transformation, let’s give it a shot and apply it to NASA. The article “ The Reinvention of NASA” by Loizos Heracleous Douglas Terrier and Steven Gonzalez, sums up the challenges NASA have faced since the sixties. It sketches the challenges NASA had to respond to a disruptive startup vs corporate company situation. In the sixties, they had more or less a monopoly, and now they work together with China, Russia and tech billionaires like Elon Musk, Richard Branson and Jeff Bezos. But you cannot be too agile in space. A simple metric mishap may lead to a velocity that triggers a real burndown chart: one of all the work (and cash) as happened with the Mars Climate Orbiter in 1999.

NASA's lessons learnt in short: an open culture and innovation are the key element of NASA’s success. And open it should be because Stephen Hawking and Thomas Hertog just released an article putting an end to the universe's beginning. So no more Big Bang, no eternal inflation. And if so, a space map with directions will not be far away: at the next planet, turn left…

Articles:
This ‘Cosmic GPS’ Tech Will Help Us Explore the Furthest Reaches of Space by Taylor Berrigan in Singularityhub
The Reinvention of NASA by Loizos Heracleous Douglas Terrier and Steven Gonzalez in Harvard Business Review
Stephen Hawking’s (almost) last paper: putting an end to the beginning of the universe by Adrian Cho in Science
Metric mishap caused loss of NASA orbiter by Robin Lloyd in CNN.

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